By John Philip Wyllie
When Andrew Martinez first arrived on Eastlake High School’s South Bay campus four years ago, he did so with a tall and lean physique perfectly suited for playing basketball. But like his two brothers before him Martinez was far more interested in pinning his opponents than he was is dribbling through them. Somewhat awkward at the time and lacking in technique, his coaches knew that they had a project on their hands. They were however, impressed by his determination and willingness to learn.
Four years later Martinez, the Titans 145 pound wrestler, is an impressive 21-4 in this his senior season. He has been the runner-up at two recent invitational tournaments and claimed third place in two others.
“Andrew is by far the most improved wrestler that I have seen during the last few years. He has gone from being challenged to becoming one of our star wrestlers. He is the most respectful kid I have ever coached and he is very appreciative of everything that we do for him. Andrew is every coach’s dream,” said his Eastlake mentor, Troy Vierra.
Martinez’s matches are rarely a thing a beauty. His style remains unorthodox and he occasionally still gets himself into situations on the mat that put him at a disadvantage, but somehow he keeps winning. Part of the problem is his unusual body shape. Successful wrestlers are usually muscular, compact and possessing a low center of gravity. Martinez’s unconventional style makes him appear vulnerable. His 21 victories thus far would indicate that sometimes appearances can be deceiving.
“Andrew is the type of guy that people don’t like to wrestle because things that work against most people don’t work against him.” Vierra explained. “He uses his leverage effectively and he wins often because he is very tough and just won’t quit.” With his coach’s help, Mar-tinez has also developed an assortment of very effective moves. But moves aren’t the only things he has learned at Eastlake.
“I’ve learned a lot about teamwork and how to get along with people while wrestling on this team,” Martinez said. “We have a motto here: Focus-Composure-Heart. Those are things you can use everywhere. I think it is important to stay focused in life, to have a lot of composure and to put your heart into everything that you do.”
Naturally, Martinez would like to help Eastlake win a league championship and bring home for himself a first place medal in one of the team’s remaining invitationals, but his primary focus is set on bigger quarry.
“My biggest goal this year is to qualify for the state tournament. I didn’t make it last year, but I think I am a lot better wrestler this season.”
The road to the state finals will not be an easy one. To qualify, Martinez will have to continue winning his league matches and then advance in CIF and Master’s competition. There will be many miles to run, sit ups to do and pain to endure.
“Wrestling is a tough sport,” Martinez admitted. “You can never be too good at it, but I just love the challenge.”